NEW YORK (Reuters) - Transit union workers plan to hand out seemingly blood-spattered counterfeit subway passes to New York City commuters on Thursday to draw attention to safety proposals they say could reduce the number of people killed by trains.
The campaign follows two widely reported cases in December when commuters were pushed onto the tracks and killed by oncoming trains.
Between 35 and 55 people have been killed by trains on the city’s subway tracks each year over the past decade, out of annual ridership that totaled more than 1.6 billion in 2012, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
The Transport Workers Union Local 100, the main union for the city’s subway workers, is calling for new speed limits to be posted that would force trains to enter stations more slowly than they currently do.
The MTA opposes limits that would add to delays. Most stations in the system do not have speed limits, and drivers are instead trained to use their own judgment.
“If you’re coming in slower, you can stop faster,” Jim Gannon, a union spokesman, said in an interview. “It’s just physics.”
The union also wants attendants on subway platforms at crowded times, and access to emergency power shut-off systems to stop trains from entering a station where someone has fallen on the tracks.
Such measures would reduce deaths, injuries and the trauma and mental health problems suffered by train drivers involved in accidents, the union said.
“The motormen who actually run these people over and kill them, you know, they have recurring issues of all kinds of things: sleeplessness, they can’t work, they don’t want to go back to the job,” Gannon said.
The demands are being printed on mock Metrocards, the distinctive credit-card-sized pass that New Yorkers swipe at turnstiles to enter the subway system. The cards have been designed to look like they’ve been splattered by blood, and feature an image of the Grim Reaper bearing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s logo on his cloak.
The MTA, the state agency that runs the transit system, says speed limits are a bad idea.
“The fact is that slowing down trains would create crowding conditions on trains and platforms and would actually create a more dangerous condition,” Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, said in an e-mail.
The MTA instead wanted to work with the union on public education campaigns to encourage commuters to steer clear of the platform edge, Ortiz said.
The MTA is also planning a pilot program in which barriers with electric doors will be installed at the platform edge, but has warned that extending such a program across the city would be expensive and difficult.
On December 3, Ki-Suck Han was killed after being shoved onto subway tracks in Manhattan as a train entered a station near Times Square. A suspect, Naeem Davis, has been charged with second-degree murder. On December 27, Sunando Sen was shoved to his death at a station in Queens. Erika Menendez has been charged with his murder. Police said she told investigators she pushed Sen because she hates Muslims and Hindus.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Alden Bentley